As the children break up for the summer I invite you to all have some fun! Take a seat and use your DNA.
Let me explain – there are two main approaches that I refer to in most of my work with teenagers and adults. The Adult Chair Model, by Michelle Chalfant and the ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Training) coaching therapy model. I think that these two combined when working with families is especially useful, and particularly at this potentially stressful time of change – the school holidays!
School holidays bring all kinds of new stressors, especially around expectations. The children are expecting activities every day and freedom. Parents are now balancing paid work with child supervision and if they can take annual leave, not unsurprisingly their expectation may be rest and restore.
I would like illustrate how combining the two approaches may actually enable most of us to live in the present moment a little more frequently, and as such increase the happiness factor!
The Adult Chair Model is an easy way for us to check out our parenting reactions to how our children are behaving at any one moment. When we are triggered by something it is a good idea to pause and reflect on our own sensations/emotions/feelings and just to check if we feel grounded and ‘adult’ or if we may have slipped into another chair. It is important not to judge these ‘chairs’ as good or bad, but instead to just realise that our thinking and therefore our behaviour may or may not be helpful in this particular family conflict. The website summarises each chair as follows:
“Your inner child forms between ages zero and seven, and it is the foundation of your true feelings and needs. The inner child is deeply vulnerable, which makes it the source of deep, connected relationships. It is also where early wounding can occur, which shapes our view of the world as we grow up. When seated in the Child Chair, we find creativity, passion, spontaneity, trust and intimacy”.
“In adolescence, you begin to develop your own identity and realize that you are separate and unique from the world around you. As the ego forms, so does the desire to protect yourself, whether the dangers are real or imagined. When seated in the Adolescent Chair, we become perfectionistic, judgmental and controlling, and we develop a mask to hide our authentic selves from a world that seems cold and rejecting. Most of us live from this place until we awaken and decide we are ready to change.”
“The Adult Chair represents your highest self: living in the present moment, dealing with facts and truth over stories and assumptions and being able to set boundaries from a place of patience and compassion. While seated in the Adult Chair, we can deeply connect with our inner child’s needs and feelings and objectively observe our adolescent’s behaviours. It is here, and only here, that we can become aware of—and overcome—the emotional triggers and negative patterns that hold us back.”
Do check out the podcasts that explain this model in more detail, but in a nutshell, ideally we want to parent from the adult chair – setting compassionate boundaries. Once we largely parent from The Adult Chair we can engage in a fun way to approach each day with our children over the holidays by teaching them the DNA model. I first wrote about this in April last year and here are some adapted extracts:
Hayes and Ciarroci have developed three basic skills they refer to as DNA – like the building blocks of our life, these skills run through us and enable us to behave in certain ways. D is The Discoverer in us; N – The Noticer and A The advisor.
The Advisor is the almost continual ‘internal voice’ that we hear telling us what to do, what not to do etc…. The advisor is neither good nor bad – but it does use past experience to let us know what is possible or impossible. It can often contain ‘shoulds and musts’. We need to listen carefully for these. For those of us with limiting beliefs we can take The Advisor’s suggestion too literally. “You are on holiday; you should be relaxing”. This kind of self-talk may be true in some sense, but the assumption may well be incorrect – enter The Noticer.
The Noticer is the ability to move down into the body and really notice how we feel – in this last example – “well no actually, it is true I would like to relax, but what does relax actually mean? Do I feel tense right now? Is it possible that playing with the kids is actually relaxing?” – when we notice this we open the door for The Discoverer.
The Discover sets eagerly to work with ideas for other ways to ‘relax’. The discoverer may encourage you to try new activities with the children and through noticing how you feel you may re-educate The Advisor that there are many ways to relax.
By consciously shifting between these three interacting skills, we can start to disentangle ourselves from the ‘shoulds and the musts’. We can stay present in this situation on this day in this moment and are open to Discoverer options.
Listening to our children moaning for example that they are bored, we can challenge them to reflect using the three basic skills, perhaps they will find a solution for themselves that will enable them and us all to enjoy these moments more.
So, to have fun this summer, see which seat you naturally take when conflict arises, maybe change seats, moving into The Adult Chair, if at all possible and then through the whole family using the language of DNA, you will hopefully create a largely peace filled, interesting and enjoyable few weeks together over the summer. Happy Holidays!